Chinese GP - Friday - Practice Session 1 Report
Soggy start stop
By Dan Knutson
The first practice for the second grand prix of 2017 got off to a soggy start on Friday morning in China. As a result, the Free Practice 1 session was stopped after just four minutes because it was too murky with the low clouds for the medical helicopter to fly.
Just under half the session remained when it was restarted only to be stopped again and for good with 25 minutes to go because once again the chopper could not operate in the misty conditions.
The lineup for the weekend was: Mercedes ‚Äö√Ñ√¨ Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas; Red Bull TAG Heuer ‚Äö√Ñ√¨ Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen; Ferrari ‚Äö√Ñ√¨ Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen; Force India Mercedes ‚Äö√Ñ√¨ Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon; Williams Mercedes ‚Äö√Ñ√¨ Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll; McLaren Honda ‚Äö√Ñ√¨ Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne; Renault ‚Äö√Ñ√¨ Nico Hulkenberg and Jolyon Palmer; Toro Rosso Renault ‚Äö√Ñ√¨ Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz; Haas Ferrari ‚Äö√Ñ√¨ Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen; Sauber Ferrari ‚Äö√Ñ√¨ Marcus Ericsson and Antonio Giovinazzi.
As in Australia, Giovinazzi replaced Pascal Wehrlein who is still not fit enough following his accident in the Race of Champions in January.
"For me the most important is that I can train intensively to ensure a 100 percent performance from my side as soon as possible," Wehrlein said. "I will then be well prepared for my first complete grand prix weekend for the Sauber F1 Team. Hopefully this can be in Bahrain but, if not, then we will take the time it needs until Russia to make sure I am completely ready."
Grey, soggy skies were over the circuit on Friday morning ‚Äö√Ñ√¨ the same weather forecast for race day. The ambient temperature at the start of the 90-minute session was 55 degrees Fahrenheit (13 degrees Centigrade) and the track temperature was 59 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Centigrade).
The teams had had one rather unsatisfactory day of wet track testing in Barcelona, so this was really the first proper chance to try out the new Pirelli rain tires.
As in Australia, the Haas team was the first to venture out, although this time it was Magnussen rather than Grosjean to do the honors. Massa also headed out. The three were on Pirelli's extreme wet tires with the blue sidewalls.
Just four minutes into the session the red flags came out. The weather conditions were too foggy for the medical helicopter to fly, but not the chopper with the TV cameras. About half the drivers had done an installation lap.
While the track action was stopped, the clock was not, so the minutes continued to click off in the 90 session.
Finally, after a 43-minute delay, the session was restarted.
Magnussen was first out again. This time he was on Pirelli's intermediate rain tires with the green sidewalls. It was slippery out there, and he had a lazy spin at Turn 9.
Verstappen set the early soggy pace with a time of 1:52.266 which he soon lowered to a 1:50.491.
With just over 30 minutes remaining in FP1, Hulkenberg spun off and got stuck in the gravel at Turn 3. "You are not going to get out of there, mate," his engineer radioed. The Virtual Safety Car was deployed as Hulkenberg climbed out.
Only 12 drivers had set times. Hamilton, Vettel and Raikkonen had yet to do a flying lap.
The red flags again stopped the session with 25 minutes remaining. Once again the medical helicopter could not fly. The weather conditions also caused the closure of the local airport.
This time the session was not restarted.
The top ten at the end of the soggy start/stop session were: Verstappen, Massa, Stroll, Sainz, Grosjean, Kvyat, Alonso, Ricciardo, Bottas and Magnussen.